The People’s Journey grew from the collaborative efforts of Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans. Each group had independently been spreading the word of ordinary people about the real costs of war to all humans involved.
Their common belief in the worth and dignity of each human being caused them to find one another:
The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have offered the voice of ordinary Afghans through their website OurJourneyToSmile.com since 2008. They have created over 120 short videos with the simple message about what life is like in Afghanistan in the wake of 30 years of war. They work through conciliatory efforts to bring all people together through the building of friendships toward a love that is stronger than all war.
Josh Stieber, an Iraq War Veteran, and creator of Contagious Love Experiment, was joined with Conor Curran, for an epic cross-country tour whose blog became a daily staple for the friends they met along the way as they crossed the United States. The Contagious Love Experiment discovered Our Journey To Smile (OJtS) and began sharing their videos on their blog.
Salam Talib and Douglas Mackey, who developed the Iraq Memorial to Life, met Josh and Conor in the fall of 2009 & were thus introduced to the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.
Through the collective efforts of all the above and the added support of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Witness Against Torture, Pax Christi, Veterans For Peace, and others The People’s Journey was created.
Plans for the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers to tour the US in the spring of 2010 (full story here) had to be changed when the US Embassy refused visas to two of the youths slated to make the trip. The AYPVs graciously encouraged the others planning the first journey to go forward with the plans that now included two girls from Palestine (Gaza), Salma and Laila, and Pam Bailey an American witness to the impacts of U.S. foreign policy in Gaza.
The list of supporters continued to grow and experienced a significant leap when Kathy Kelly and other co-coordinators of Voices for Creative Non-Violence became involved and visited Bamiyan Center, home to the AYPVs in October of 2010. This story continues to expand (as of this writing) with the VCNV partners again in Afghanistan with Ann Wright, Mike Ferner, and four others from the US. This rich story has been covered by several media outlets including CommonDreams, TruthOut, Z Magazine and others.
In addition to those listed above, many groups consider themselves part of The People’s Journey – supporting the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers their recent partners Afghans For Peace. They all believe that the worth and dignity of each human being shall be as important as any ideal or philosophy or governmental policy.
IVAW, MFSO, Peace Action, AFSC, UUSC, VVAW and others are getting to know the Afghan youth groups on the Journey.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation continues to administer funds set aside for future Journeys including the ongoing conversations between youth in war-torn countries and youth around the world. You can support this effort directly through the FORUSA donation page (list “in honor of:” The Peoples Journey).
Imagine the world’s youth getting to know each other – and their listening to one another becomes friendship and love.
It will happen if we join our hearts …
everyone at The People’s Journey